It has been raining a bit more than usual in the Pacific Northwest, and there has even been snow in the lowlands along some of the trails that I have been trekking upon with my Like Minded Women tribe. Soooo, my fantasizing of our upcoming (previously) annual trip to Mexico became an ongoing daydream and our departure date couldn’t come soon enough!!
Zihuatanejo lies southwest of Mexico City in the State of Guerrero, a region where the southern Sierra Madre foothills often come right up to the ocean. I first visited the Guerrero region of Mexico in 1998 with friends, joining other amigos who had been living there for a few months, thus giving us an almost locals lay of the land. The airport location generally has visitors going either to the high-rise hotels, discos, fancy restaurants and “All Inclusive” Club Med of Ixtapa or to the sleepy fishing village of Zihuatanejo. Many of the folks who choose Ixtapa may take a day trip or two to “Zihua” and there are also cruise ships that come into both ports (less so now in Zihuatanejo) and ferry people over for half day “field trips” to Zihuatanejo’s lovely beaches.
I fell in love with Zihua, and have been returning ever since. Handsome Hubby has joined along and together we have been coming in February since 2008. Our kiddos have joined us a handful of times and we have gone from staying two weeks to our longest in 2020 – Six Weeks! That was, until the Coronavirus pandemic ascended upon us all just as we were heading back to Washington State that March of 2020 – loaded down with hand sanitizer which had already become scarce around home. This winter of 2023 is our first return since.
We traditionally begin our time at a less popular location outside of town which brings instant relaxation and tranquility. For many years it was out on the beach of Playa Blanca near the airport, which when viewed with its connecting beach of Playa Larga, stretches nine miles – and its not unusual to walk for hours and see only the fishermen throwing their hand nets out as they wade into the surf!
Beginning in 2005 we have instead commenced our relaxation off in the relatively unknown surfing beach village of Troncones, located about twenty miles northwest of Zihuatanejo on the coast of Guerrero State, in the municipality of La Unión de Isidoro Montes de Oca. We first discovered this town on an adventure that we dared ourselves to take on one of our visits and love to laugh and reminisce about it! Other patrons picked up along the way that day included fishermen with their gear and buckets of bait, folks with caged chickens, men with machetes and women with groceries – just to name a few!
We thoroughly enjoyed staying at the lovely Inn at Manzanilla Bay with its private casitas situated around a landscaped pool and its excellent restaurant. In 2020 we followed their Manager Extraordinaire, who has become our friend, a few yards down the beach to Los Raqueros Bed & Breakfast and this season is our second time staying there. This small and lush setting tucked into tranquil Manzanillo Bay has two private casita suites, two suites adjacent to their reception lobby/common area/open air lounge/restaurant, another grouping of beautifully appointed rooms set back on the property, a gorgeous swimming pool, and several resident iguanas and lizards! Stays include a full menu complimentary breakfast. And, a winning and enduring feature, Los Roqueros is is also Right On The Beach!!!
There is not much happening “in town” though the secret is getting out and the village is growing in services, available lodging options, restaurant choices and a variety of “eco” activities. There are an amazingly high number of yoga retreats held in Troncones and since the surf is good yet mild, many beginner and intermediate surfers enjoy this destination! Mostly though, chickens roam the streets, dogs nap in the middle of the road, cats peek out of comfortable lounging spots and loud nightlife is limited to very few weekly events, making for quiet nights.
The beach itself is a 3 mile or so stretch of tide pools and interesting sea rock formations, low swooping pelicans, herons, cormorants, coots, sandpipers, turkey vultures, frigate birds, stilts, several species of egrets – and very few people. It also connects to Majahua Beach leading into another tiny fishing hamlet of the same name. Humpback whales are seen with frequency and sightings never get old! The popular (yet small) surf ranch of La Saladita Beach is located a few more miles north in Los Llanos.
California homeowners when we met them six years ago in Zihuatanejo, now Montana residents, our friends Dallas and Bob bought their condo in Majahua in 2018. We like to meet up with them for breakfast at local favorite, Cafe Pacifico and also at a handful of dinner places – most recently Chencho’s where I had The Best chili relleno ever, in a delicate, smokey sauce. We have also enjoyed watching the NFL Super Bowl with them – – in 2019 at La Perla on La Ropa Beach in Zihuatanejo (we actually won the pool!!!!!) and in 2020 – the first half at Antonio’s in Majahua and the other half in their amazing, north facing, unobstructed ocean view condo!! Watching the Super Bowl in Spanish is another dimension of exciting!! A memorable occasion had us joining others of their friends at Restaurant Brisas en Las Rocas where I have enjoyed the grilled whole red snapper and it’s so satisfying that we usually go back again another evening and have exactly the same thing!! Our last season there we ended up having a torrential downpour of rain just after we finished our meals (most other guests had yet to be served) and since the seating is entirely outdoors, we had to vamoose after fifteen minutes once it was apparent that the powerful showers would not abate!!! It thundered and poured all night and it was actually pretty groovy and literally refreshing to feel the wind and rain in the air. Great local and weekly entertainer, Jossy Gallegos, was unfortunately able to complete only one set.
We like an active “vacation” and with good fortune we have become friends with locals Will and Belem who are endlessly fun to be with and always introduce us to new hikes, birds, fauna, hidden treasures and they allow us to make discoveries we might not otherwise experience!
As I continue to reminisce, on our last visit Belem took Bill and I on a moderate yet steep, six mile hike into the jungle and through some back streets of rural homes. Another day her husband, Wil, took us four wheeling up, down, around and about – and to a lookout with incredible vistas of the town and beaches below! That “Troncones Trail” jungle hike didn’t leave our minds and we trekked it three times while in Troncones this time, one of which we added an extended, steeper loop exposing us to some unexpected huge sections of limestone boulders and rock formations (and a group of mountain bikers!)
Also one day we joined up to paddle with eight others and two guides on an “eco” tour by kyak! Costa Nativa Ecotours is a ecotourism project, developed by local resident and Oceanographer, Alejandro Rodriguez Pruneda, to educate people about the natural and cultural richness and extreme biodiversity of flora and fauna in this region of Mexico. Having experienced this estuary cruise a previous time, we couldn’t wait to go again! We saw countless varieties of birds as well as turtles and iguanas. At one point we vacated our kayaks and met a local (and wise man we were told by our guides) who has taken to feeding the humongous iguanas a slop mixture of papaya and mango, calling them by names and basically getting them to drop from the trees and come running across the jungle floor by the hundreds (no exaggeration here) earning him the moniker of “The Iguana Whisperer”!!! It is other worldly! Just as the nine of us eco “tourists” and our two guides settled back into the truck, one turn too many reorienting to depart resulted in a busted steering column!! Handsome Hubby and guide, Rodrigo, got on their backs and under the vehicle, managing to temporarily create enough stability (a few times over) to maneuver it in degrees and off the road. They still had to send smoke signals back to the office to get us transportation out of there and we were ultimately only ten minutes over the projected end time. Kudos to their handling of a tenuous and unexpected situation!! We still had time to clean up, say “Adios” and get our taxi to Zihuatanejo for the next portion of our trip.
As for other great places to eat – we always have to visit Roberto’s Bistro and Steak House for their Argentine prepared steak with chimichurri sauce!! A new place in town, Indigo, has an Argentine owner and they prepare the vacio steak cut, too as well as empanadas. I had a very satisfying and beautiful smoked salmon salad and their burgers and pizza are remarkable, too. We frequent the Jardin del Eden (now called El Pincho) down the beach a few times for pizza and indescribable sunsets in hues of rose, violet and red, lasting easily half an hour from every aspect of the beach on Manzanilla Bay. Time almost stands still in this tranquil bay.
Its always bittersweet to say Adios to our Amigos and Troncones Tranquility, yet we are always ready to say Hola once again to our Beloved Zihuatanejo!!!